By Lil Joe
One of the main things raised by Addae's article The ABCs of Class Struggle is the question, "where do we go from here." This question is best approached openly and with critical thinking, and not by lashing out at Addae because of his criticisms of Lenin.
The responses to Addae's article have been interesting, to say the least. On e-mail list serves that are comprised predominantly of the White Left, the article gets lip service agreement regarding the prominence of class struggle, and of the prominence of the struggle of labor against capital. But, then those same people spend the majority of their comments denouncing Addae for criticizing Lenin. Most all dismiss Addae by accusing him of "ranting" against Lenin.
On e-mail list serves that are comprised predominantly of the Black Left, the article by Addae (seemingly Marxist) is largely ignored.
The issue, however, is not Lenin [1870-1924].
For those who are reading my comments and have not had experience with the early Black Liberation Movement (BLM), I will give some background.
The BLM originated in the 1930s in the Garvey Movement. The Garvey Movement was based in the urban black petty-bourgeoisie (New York, Chicago, St. Louis, &c.). It's ideology was Christianity and Black supremacy and anti-Communism. (Garveyites denounce Black communists as integrationists.) The program of the Garvey Movement was based on promoting Black capitalism.
Garvey [1887-1940] was a radicalized version of Booker T. Washington [1856-1915] -- both he and Washington accepted racial segregation, and neither fought against racial discrimination; both ideologically supported Black's learning a manual skill, and supported businesses, under segregation, as the solution to Black folk problems in America.
On the other hand, Garvey differed ideologically from Booker T. Washington in that, although Garvey accepted racial segregation in the United States, he argued also that Blacks should do as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) demanded: Go back to Africa. Garvey and the KKK Grand Dragons spoke at each other's rallies -- they both denounced racial integration and interracial sex and marriage. Furthermore, Garvey said that, as Christians, Black Americans have more in common with the KKK than with the American Communist Party. His reasoning was that the KKK was "Christian," whereas Communists are atheists.
Garvey's involvement with and statements about Blacks and the KKK was at a time (the 1920s and 30s) when Blacks were being lynched in the South and attacked in the North by the KKK, and other racists. The only organizations that came forth in defense of Black people (e.g., the Scottsboro Boys) was the American Communist Party -- and Black trade unionists who were organizing the Sleeping Car Porters Union, which eventually compelled the white trade unionists to recognize them.
From his discussions with Claude McKay, Lenin -- and, later, from his discussion with C.L.R. James, and Leon Trotsky -- wondered aloud whether Blacks in the United States were an oppressed "nation." The Communist Party USA, later capitulated to racial pressures in the United States, and declared that the Negro Nation did, in fact, exist -- using Stalin's criterion, as stated in his "Marxism and the National Question," and, in particular, using the formula put forth by Harry Haywood.
The Communist International and Communist Party U.S.A., on the basis of Haywood's application of the criteria of nations articulated by Stalin in "Marxism and the National Question - that is, a common language, territory, economic cohesion, and common psychological make-up manifest in a common culture -- declared the area in the American South where Blacks constituted a numerical majority -the Black-belt is an oppressed "Negro Nation". As such, the Negro Nation had the status of a colony that had a right to "self-determination" including political independence by succession.
Queen Mother Moore, for instance, was initially influenced by the Garvey Movement, but "impressed by the Communist Party's role as the vanguard in the defense of the Scottsboro Boys. She joined the Communist Party. However, she left the CP when she realized that it could or would not translate its ideas about black self-determination into action. (See online, Black History Pages)
On racial oppression grounds -- rather than based in Stalin's criteria -- C.L.R. James also persuaded Trotsky and the Socialist Workers Party to recognize Blacks as a nation. Both the CP and the SWP applied to the "Negro Question" Lenin's formula of Rights of Nations to Self-Determination. Lenin was writing about the nations of the Russian Empire, and the colonies of European Empires in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Lenin understood that it was the bourgeoisie, and its political representatives, in the colonial countries -- such as Sun Yat-sen in China, Mohandas K. Gandhi in India -- who were leading the movements for home rule national independence). Lenin believed it racist paternalism for socialists in the "mother country" to oppose the independence of the colonies in the name of "proletarian internationalism."
Lenin was quite clear on this:
Socialists cannot achieve their great aim without fighting against all oppression of nations. Therefore, they must without fail demand that the Social-Democratic parties of oppressing countries (especially of the so-called "great" powers) should recognise and champion the right of oppressed nations to self-determination, precisely in the political sense of the term, i.e., the right to political secession. The Socialist of a ruling or colony-owning nation who fails to champion this right is a chauvinist.
(V.I. Lenin. Socialism and War - Rights of Nations to Self-Determination, 1915)
On the other hand Lenin (and Trotsky) fought with the workers in the international to place class unity as primary. The workers in the oppressed nations, in the colonies, and in the oppressor nation are one class.
The Socialists of oppressed nations must, in their turn, unfailingly fight for the complete including organisational unity of the workers of the oppressed and oppressing nationalities. The idea of the juridical separation of one nation from another (so-called "cultural-national autonomy" advocated by Bauer and Renner) is reactionary."
(V.I. Lenin. Socialism and War - Rights of Nations to Self-Determination, 1915)
This was also Stalin's position in his book, Marxism and the National Question (1913). It was only later, as head of the Soviet Communist government and International, that Stalin changed this to adapt to the national bourgeois in colonial or semi-colonial countries by ordering Communists and workers' parties in those countries to accommodate the bourgeois parties. The bourgeois parties wanted their class interests to prevail, of course. To accommodate the bourgeois parties communists wereordered to subordinate the proletarian struggle for socialism to the bourgeois parties, which wanted political independence based on capitalism and bourgeois democracy.
Lenin, however, had regarded the proletariat as a cosmopolitan class. But, in countries dominated by peasant agriculture with a small proletariat, Lenin saw the peasantry -- though a "rural bourgeoisie" -- as an ally with the proletariat in struggle against feudal backwardness. On the international scale, he also saw the radical bourgeois intelligentsia in the colonies as allies with workers' movements in the imperialist countries, in that they had a common enemy.
In practice -- based on Kremlin policies -- this "alliance of the Soviet Union and the rising colonial bourgeoisie" resulted in proletarians in the colonial countries subordinating their movement to the colonial bourgeoisie in "United Fronts Against Imperialism," in which case the "contradiction" between the imperialists and the colonial bourgeois was "primary," and between the proletariat and the colonial bourgeois "secondary." This is what Addae is criticizing.
In the 1950s, 60s and 70s the Soviet Union supported national liberation movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America. In some cases, communists refused to subordinate their struggle for power to Soviet foreign policy, and came to power -- as in China, Korea and Vietnam. Of course, Cuba decided on a Communist party state as well. The MPLA in Angola and the PAIGC in Guinea Bissau also presented themselves as Marxists of sorts while, at the same time, leaving significant economic and political institutions in the hands of the bourgeoisie.
Then there were the "progressive" regimes in Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Nicaragua and Grenada that had significant -- and costly -- Soviet or/and Cuban support. During the latter moments of the Cold War, the U.S., during the Reagan years, expended considerable money, weapons, logistical and political support to arm, organize, and finance the counter-revolutionaries in Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Angola, and Nicaragua. This, and an acerbated "arms race," the placement of nuclear tipped cruse missiles in the East NATO countries, the Strategic Defense Initiative -- SDI or so-called "Star Wars" program, pressured the Soviets to divert more money and resources to their military budget, and troops to Afghanistan, aide to Ethiopia, Nicaragua, and Angola, and so on. All of this, together with the comparatively less efficient Soviet industrial capacity, and inability to provide significantly to its own population contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The first causalities of the collapsing Soviet Union were the states of the Warsaw Pact: Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia (which are now part of NATO). In the Soviet Union proper Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were the first to succeed. Then there was the problems in Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia, and Georgia. East Germany was conquered by the West, and assimilated into Germany proper, and thereby NATO. In Romania, and Bulgaria the "communist" governments were overthrown, and Yugoslavia fell apart, followed by the ethnic and religious wars in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo. The European nation-states in the Soviet Union -- Russia, Ukraine, etc. -- disbanded the Soviet Union and formed a "Commonwealth of Independent States, disengaged themselves from Azerbaijan, Mongolia, and so on. Cuba, Angola and others were now on their own.
The nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America, that were once courted and/or economically and therefore politically propped up by either the Soviet Union or the United States during the cold war were now on their own. U.S. imperialism, which emerged as victor of the cold war was/is more arrogant and deadly than ever.
The illusion that U.S. imperialism like the old Roman Empire (or so it was believed) will "collapse" as a consequence of 3rd world colonies winning their "independence," is among the casualties of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and lost of cold war economic support by one side or the other. Given its economic and political defeat of the Soviet Union, U.S. imperialism has an even greater stranglehold on the economies of politically independent countries of the "periphery."
Third-world liberation ideology was often stated in terms of an analogy of an "Octopus" - the "Octopus" head represents the United States, and the "Octopus" tentacles represent U.S. economic and political domination in the colonial countries in the 3rd world. The analogy goes something like this: each successful independence movement represents cutting off "a tentacle" of the imperialist "Octopus." Assumedly, the "Octopus" would eventually be without any tentacles, and the "Octopus head" exposed, vulnerable, and unprotected.
Reality often does not go the way of analogies. We were not dealing with an Octopus with tentacles, but with an economic power that is based on advanced technological and military capabilities. When third-world liberation states proved socialism impossible in those agrarian economies, each one after another submitted to the economic dominance - and pressures - of the world market and finance capital. The analogy of the Octopus was swept away when the third-world liberation movements did not affect the "tentacles" of the so-called "Octopus" called the U.S.
One side of the Black nationalist movement - the Afrocentrics - is also in crisis, because these Afrocentrics believed that the problem in the world is the predominance of the "Eurocentric world-view," and the economic, class, and political issues are subordinated to that. They believed that Africans in Africa, untouched by the European mentality, are some how genetically black conscious, smart, and wise. They said that "native African- Americans are "fucked up," because they are "white minded," and that Eurocentrism has them "thinking like whitey."
However, once the African nation-states, and those in the Caribbean won their political independence the Black bourgeoisie came to the helm. The African bourgeoisie is no different that the bourgeoisie of any other continent or country. So long as capitalism exist, whether in the United States or in Nigeria, for example, the bourgeoisie is able to function as ruling class, behind the scenes, by corrupting politicians, or/and the political wing of the military leadership corps.
Once the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War (actually hot wars in Asia, Africa, and Latin America) ended by the triumph of U.S. imperialism and the European Union, the African bourgeoisie was unhampered in bringing in politicians or/and generals that brought their countries into the orbits of the World Bank, the IMF, and into WTO. At the same time, the wars financed by the U.S. in Angola and Mozambique spread like wild-fire throughout Africa, with competing ethnic political groups trading diamonds and oil for guns.
The African-American ethnocentrists got mad at the Africans for being human beings, succumbing to U.S. and European imperialism. They now oppose almost all (if not all) the African heads of state as warlords, as "corrupt," and "sell-outs." Once the reality of capitalism and political corruption became obvious, and the fallacies of the myth that "Africans" were immune to "white thinking" also became obvious, now the same Afrocentrists that praise the African kings of the past has turned into venomous attacks on African heads of state in the present.
But, these "Cultural Nationalists" are not the "Black nationalists" to which Addae is directing his criticisms in "ABCs of Class Struggle." Addae is criticizing those in the Marxist section of the Black nationalist/Pan Africanist movement that subordinate the proletarian class struggle for socialism to the hegemony of the African bourgeoisie in the national liberation movement. Addae is not attacking Garvey, but Lenin.
Additionally, when the Soviet Union collapsed third-world countries had to come hat in hand to the United States or/and the European Union in search for revenues of "foreign aide." Third-world countries lost their avenue of military and financial support from the collapsed Soviet Union - Russia is now itself begging with hat in hand for European Union investment and "assistance"!
The illusion that third-world countries could "cut the tentacles" of the "Octopus" and yet survive as independent countries, as had been stated by Stalinists, Maoists, and Trotskyists, was also perpetuated by Samir Amin in his Third Worldist theory of "core-periphery." The "core" countries, in Europe - and especially the United States - were/are presented by Amin as a modern version of the collapse of the Roman Empire by the separation from it of colonies and provinces of the "periphery" relative to Rome. In the Roman Empire, the colonies and provinces in the "periphery" where production and taxes came from, and was challenged in the West by the Germanic tribes.
But, what is omitted is that the Afro-Asian Eastern Mediterranean states, which were the ancient centers of wealth in which Rome was part and parcel, had been integrated for some time as the so-called civilized world. It did not collapse from loosing the Western Empire, but survived as the Eastern Empire until the Crusades, and finally overtaken by the Arabic Muslims. The Assyrian empire was displaced by the Persians and the Medes, which were displaced by the Greeks, that was displaced by the Romans, that was displaced by the Muslim Arabs and Turks. The empires passed from group to group, but this region never "collapsed" - notwithstanding the lost by Rome of the "periphery" to the "barbarian" in the West.
The "core/periphery" theory in the last analysis is bourgeois ideology in that it substitutes in place of class struggles all over the world the primacy of ethnic, national or racial conflict -- Garvey's concept of "race first" in pseudoscientific economic "theory."
In all of these instances, we find one universal truth: Globalizing projects created economies marked by polarization into cores and peripheries, winners and losers. Often they degraded into violence and wars between the core and the periphery. In the Roman Empire, Rome was the core, and all its far-flung dominions the periphery. In the British Empire, London was the core, and the colonies, from India to Palestine to South Africa, the periphery.
Colonialism was the world system in which the core and periphery were legally and militarily linked in a clearly exploitative division of labor.
Today, globalization continues to not only integrate but distinguish the core developed nations of Europe, Japan, and the United States with regard to the peripheral Third World.
(Boston College Magazine, Spring 2003)
Get it? "Third World" in conflict with the 1st world (including Japan!) Then the article goes on to contrast the "income" of 1st world and 3rd world countries rather than contrast the different degrees of exploitation, and thus quantified rate of surplus value of the industrial proletariat in the "1st World" to that of the non-industrial 3rd world peasants and workers. An immediate quantifiable fact would establish that workers in industrial capital using advanced technology has an enhanced productivity yielding a higher rate of surplus labor output per time unit, thus a greater degree of exploitation than do workers or peasants using traditional (animal or/and hand) tools in 3rd world countries.
But the bourgeois sociologists do not deal with scientific issues of exploitation and surplus labor but the "income" of the 1st world, including ages of labor and capitalist profits, which they contrast to the "income" f the 3rd world (including wages and profits) countries. Thus they contrast the "rich and poor," which are eternal classless "categories" which akes the issue away from relations of production and class exploitation.
Without explaining how 3rd world workers can, and do survive on relatively less "income" (have you ever wondered HOW 3rd world workers survive on $3.00 a day and American workers cannot survive on $3.00 an hour?) the bourgeois sociologists instead contrast the "incomes" of Indonesian, Nigerian and Mexican workers to those of the United States, thus spreading the lie that American workers "benefit from the "super-exploitation" of 3rd world workers. Thus instead of pitting the global proletariat against the global bourgeoisie they pit the European and American working class against the workers and peasants of Asia, Africa and Latin America!
Thus to continue with the quote:
The average income in the world's richest 20 countries is 37 times the average in the poorest 20, and the per capita income gap between rich and poor nations tripled between 1960 and 1993."
(Boston College Magazine, Spring 2003)
The author refuses to point out in his statistics about "income" the Marxian look at wealth distribution that determines differences in income. Rather than clearly pointing out that even in American bourgeois economics income is not the same as wealth - wealth is a resource used to produce income.
In America only 1 percent of the wealthiest families own 20 percent of the nations wealth. The top eight percent own 60 percent. "Owning wealth" means that in America capitalists own the land, factories, banks and financial institutions from which they respectively derive "income" in the forms of rent, profits and interests. Landowners in America as in Africa derive income from their land in the form of rent.
Capitalists in Africa as in America derive income in the form of profits by exploiting wage-labor. Banks derive their income in the form of interest, derived from money-lending ( to corporations, governments, landlords and individuals). In America as in the 3rd world proletarians own no means of production and therefore must sell their labor power to live. Workers work for wages, and have "income" so long as they work and work so long as they produce wealth for their employers, the capitalists.
The author goes on to racialise the American proletariat, into "immigrants" and Americans and also American and native capitalist executives abroad:
But the core/periphery distinction is now being de-territorialized. We increasingly find large parts of the periphery in the core. Think of the impoverished immigrants from Mexico, China, Pakistan, and Nigeria who work in the sweatshops of New York and Los Angeles. We also find more members of the core in the Third World-superwealthy business leaders in Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Chile, and Mexico who are part of a new global plutocracy.
(Boston College Magazine, Spring 2003)
This article reeks with racism as well as bourgeois ideology, what makes workers from Mexico, China, Pakistan, and Nigeria "periphery" in the American working-class and immigrants from England, Germany and Canada not? It is that "periphery" analysis is based on the skin-color of immigrants, otherwise they would cease calling them "immigrants" once they got jobs in "the sweatshops of New York and Los Angeles."
The point of fact is that there are no "periphery" people working in America, the immigrants from Mexico, China, Pakistan and Nigeria are part of the American proletariat and ought to be brought into the trade unions along with every other American worker.
Similarly the bourgeoisie is a cosmopolitan class, whether they are American capitalist executives who moved "to Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Chile, and Mexico," or "Third World-superwealthy business leaders" in those countries. Saudi Arabia, Mexico, China, Pakistan and Nigeria are capitalist countries, not "periphery" countries.
Lenin's argument of rights of nations to self-determination is "A proletariat that tolerates the slightest violence by 'its' nation against other nations cannot be a socialist proletariat." This means in practice that the socialist proletariat in England and America has to oppose the Anglo-American imperialist aggression and re-colonization of Afghanistan and Iraq.
We recognize at the same time that there can be no freedom and security in the world so long as U.S. and European imperialism exist with the bourgeoisie in those industrialized countries having all that technology and weapons of mass destruction at their disposal. Thus the struggle of workers in the industrialized countries are "primary." World War III must take the form of class war - the cosmopolitan proletariat against the cosmopolitan bourgeoisie.
The class struggle of wage-labor and capital as primary means that the proletariat must have as its primary goal expropriating the productive forces in the industrialized world - including in industrialized countries in the 3rd World where there is a proletarian majority. The petty-dictators elsewhere, without support from expropriated industrial capitalist will collapse. All the imperialist traps will be destroyed and workers and peasants in less developed 3rd world countries will work together with a selfless support of the international community of labor.
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